March 27, 2005

Conservative-Libertarian Fusion

The blogosphere in general has been mulling over the connections and divisions between Republicans, conservatives and libertarians. Getting libertarians to stay comfortably in the GOP requires sifting through some key issues.

I'm not going to bother talking about moving hardcore Libertarians into a coalition with the GOP, because they wouldn't want to do it. The question is finding a place for the issues that wedge the GOP coalition internally in a substantive way, specifically between libertarians and conservatives.

The timeliest one is also a non-issue because it won't happen, but the federal marriage amendment is a pretty emotional issue. The easiest political solution for gay marriage is to kick it to the states, removing it as a national issue dividing libertarians and conservatives.

Libertarians, alternately, ought to refocus our drug-related rhetoric onto more achievable goals. Namely, we ought to focus on medicinal marijuana instead of blanket legalization, and we ought to emphasize making it a state or county issue, like alcohol or cigarettes. This makes it less divisive and keeps it at a much more achievable pace. It's also better for our cause in the end, since people will realize that drugs are pretty unremarkable and common parts of human life.

The real stumbling stone could be abortion. There's a pretty strong case for banning partial-birth abortion, even among devout Libertarians, but getting into the general abortion issue is more controversial. I'm biased here, but frankly I'm not at all interested in making the GOP less pro-life, even though that runs counter to the compromise theme. I don't think we need to start expelling those who think differently, but I'm not interesting in making the GOP coalition less pro-life on abortion, less Wilsonian in foreign policy, or less market-oriented on economics. I'm all for making the GOP use libertarian methods and legislation to achieve pro-life ends, but I don't think libertarian has to mean support for abortion.

Personally, I think opposition to abortion ought to be a central tenet of the GOP, just as opposition to slavery was a central tenet in the 19th century. The other central tenet of the 1850s GOP? Free labor, which essentially means working hard and being rich - a close cousin of the way we say "laissez-faire" today, only free labor is even more involved and ideological. So I think economic freedom dovetails very well with a moral crusade, because that's how it was with slavery.

Straightforward cheerleading for the pro-life view is bound to cause problems among the factions and we ought to discuss it. If this issue is big enough to rip up a coalition then it ought to be discussed.

The real problem, as I see it, is that abortion is framed as a cultural issue. A lot of people support abortion out of an intent to seem more cosmopolitan and educated. They like to clump pro-lifers together as rednecks and misogynists. I've known more than my share of sleazy womanizers who can bring more shame to the pro-choice side than every dull-red pickup in America could bring to the pro-life side. Argument by association is pathetic and immature.

Approach the issue objectively. The question has nothing to do with being redneck or cosmopolitan, nor with being a nice versus mean person (and certainly is NOT an inherently religious view). It's an answer to a single question: when does a person begin? Whenever a person begins, the taking of a life after that point is murder. So this needn't be so deathly emotional, as long as we're dealing with people who genuinely disagree on the answer (as opposed to people who smear, deceive, stereotype or aren't even interested in the basic question).

I need to harp on this point, because I fear good minds want to leave it behind. It should NOT be kicked to the background. This is a critical issue. If healthy infants up to six months old were being euthanized in the name of the Constitution I think most people would quickly line up against the barbaric practice. It's my duty, therefore, to point out a critical, widespread issue of deprived liberty in America today. Don't leave abortion out of the GOP agenda, because it screams out to be rectified.

I'm sure most pro-choice people remain unconvinced. Fair enough. Please read my issue article on abortion here. It's long but I think I've answered most of the pro-choice opinions I've heard. For those uninterested in an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view, I have one comment: technology has been saving fetuses at earlier points in their development, and eventually it's very possible we'll be able to have incubators that allow fetuses (maybe even embryos) to develop outside the mother. There have already been babies that survive at 20 and 21 weeks, and one child that survived at 19 weeks. How can the right to abortion make sense if babies that would be living persons if outside the mother are killed and trashed if they stay inside the mother? That makes no sense.

Maybe eventually we'll have fetuses sitting in incubators at 10 weeks or embryos in at 5 weeks. I'm not sure how it would work, but then I'm not a scientist. At one point heart transplants seemed absurd, but science did that eventually. I honestly believe that, given the pace of progress, one day it will be possible to incubate an embryo or fetus outside the mother. Would they then potentially be killed, even outside the mother?

If science could make it possible for women to end a pregnancy while keeping the baby alive, would we still allow abortionists to kill the baby? If in twenty or fifty years a 15-week fetus could somehow be saved and incubated outside the mother, how can we justify calling them non-persons today?

That really highlights this issue, at least in my eyes. The pro-choice side is not defending the right of the mother to protect her body; it defends the right of the mother to own the baby and let it live or die at her whim. That's chattel slavery. If the pro-choice argument were truly about the women's body then it wouldn't abort fetuses, it would eject them (to let them then live or die outside her body) and certainly all post-20 or 21 week abortions, as well as partial-birth abortion (always performed on at least potentially-viable fetuses), would be fully illegal.

This is an important issue of basic natural rights for libertarians to consider. I have a much fuller examination of the issue in the issue article, and I delve further into the idea of personhood and why it starts at conception. Please consider reading it, for the sake of rigorous intellectual honesty.

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